Brad Bown is left of centre, left of field. He is also left handed and is the owner and brewer of Adelaide Hills based brewing company Left Barrel Brewing. There are many things Brad does right, he just does them in a lefty kind of way.
His beer journey started in a similar fashion to many before him: with a homebrew kit and a tin of malt extract. Fast forward several years and Brad’s mantelpiece is now full of awards garnered by said beers and, after getting to grips with the art of all grain brewing, his attention turned to yeast.
His exploration of different yeast varieties started when a batch of Schwarzbier turned a little suspect; in an attempt to rescue it, he added in a lambic yeast. Intrigued by the outcome, he progressed to experimenting with Brettanomyces and other wild cultures, all of which merged nicely with his barrel aging program. Around half of his beers are now made using wild yeast and the other half are fermented with conventional yeast strains.
Brad's an engineer by day, taking time off to brew beer and run his Balhannah based taproom on the weekend. It's an operation that started in his backyard shed; he'd make his wort at Little Bang Brewing before transporting it up the hill for fermentation. However, the dream was always to own his own taproom and brewery and, just over a year after starting his label, Brad and his barrels took up residence in Onkaparinga Valley Road.
Call in and you'll find Brad pouring nine beers in a wide array of styles, brewing small batches, packaging cans and bottles, tending to the barrel ageing program and entertaining guests, with food trucks pulling up on the weekends too.
Here he is to tell us more as part of our ongoing Who Brews...? series.
Brad Bown – Left Barrel Brewing
Who are you?
Brad Bown, owner, brewer and chief bottle capper.
Where do you brew?
Three hundred litres batches are brewed at our brewery in Balhannah, in the Adelaide Hills; larger, approximately 1,000 litre batches of wort are brewed at Little Bang or Big Shed Brewing, then transported to our venue for fermentation. We will increase our capacity at a later time.
Why do you brew?
We need more farmhouse and sour beers out there in the marketplace. I love the challenge of brewing these kinds of beers and challenging the public’s perception of these kinds of ales.
What beers have you released to date?
How long do you want this article to be?
[Brad did provide a long list of examples but your best bet might be to head to the Brews page on his website where you'll find some of his more regular releases.]
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
I’m left handed, our beers are often "left of centre", we have a barrel beer program and these types of beers are available at our taproom.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Sour and farmhouse beers. My all time favourite beer is a Rodenbach Grand Cru. Just the complexity present in the Grand Cru, featuring foeder fermentation, the resulting bacteria and yeast dimension, the skilled blending by the brewer [which] results in a beer with great character.
The "left of centre" characteristics of the beer style are very appealing, bringing in sourness, sweet malt notes, some funk, Brett, etc…
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Rodenbach Vintage, Rodenbach Caractere Rouge, Little Bang’s Galactopus and The Pinkening, Mismatch’s Pale, Holgate’s Sour Brett Ale, To Øl’s NEIPA, just to name a few. Some dented Left Barrel cans from recent canning runs.
And various wild, funky, Brett and yeast strains from The Yeast Bay, plus some homegrown hops.
What would be your desert island beer?
Rodenbach Grand Cru.
If your brewery was a band, who would it be?
Soundgarden: alternative styles, ability to cover many genres and notes.
Plus I’m a big fan of Chris Cornell’s (RIP) catalogue.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
To be the farmhouse brewery of choice in Australia! Employing local talent and serving the locals, along with the growing tourist trade in beautiful Balhannah in the Adelaide Hills.
Where can people find your beers?
At our Taproom in Balhannah, open Friday through to Sunday.
Plus all good crafty bottleshops in and around Adelaide. And we are on tap at various pubs in SA who rotate through craft kegs. Some of our packaged brews make it over to Melbourne too, at Carwyn Cellars, or elsewhere via Lotus Beer Collective.
You'll find Left Barrel's Taproom at 37 Onkaparinga Valley Road and other entries in the Who Brews...? series here.
About the author: You can follow Matt King on multiple social media platforms, including via his blog The Craft Beer King.